Hard to navigate wintry Madison in a wheelchair

Even though the city of Madison, Wisconsin does a good job of complying with big ticket components of the Americans with Disabilities Act like mainline bus accessibility, wheelchair users say getting around the city in the winter is a strenuous activity. The conditions on the sidewalks and streets like piles of snow left by snowplows or unshoveled sidewalks make traversing the city hard for people in wheelchairs to use the streets.

Around 11,000 people under age 65 in Dane County, the county where Madison is located, have a physical disability that makes the ability to travel around the city more difficult. That number translates into 3.7 percent of Dane County’s residents who encounter winter mobility issues because of a physical disability. Because of the mobility issue, many people with physical disabilities decide to stay indoors since they are not sure what to expect when they go outside. City officials say that it would be difficult to improve the situation on the streets during winter but those with physical disabilities say that re-shoveling and curb clearing would be a large help.

One man who uses a wheelchair because of a physical impairment says that getting around sometimes depends on having “realistic expectations.” The Madison suburb resident says that after a large snowstorm he will wait a couple days before trying to travel the streets in order to allow for the snow to be cleared. In the mean time he works from home. By the third day, he places phone calls to report unshoveled pathways. The Madison metro resident has also made adjustments to his wheelchair in order to get around more easily in the winter. He has added mountain bike tires and single large front wheel like baby joggers have.

Source: The Capital Times, “Wheelchair users often struggle to navigate Madison in winter,” Kristin Czubkowski, 2/17/11

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